★★★★☆

Four Stars

Having released his last solo album in 2007, Swedish folk singer José Gonzáles spent the intervening years touring and recording with his folk-rock band Junip, but as a solo artist went somewhat under the radar.

Gonzáles’ tone has changed in the eight years since his last solo album, and even more dramatically in the 12 since his first. Vestiges & Claws has a few melancholy, quiet songs like the opening track ‘With The Ink Of A Ghost’, which is pleasantly reminiscent of the folkrock duo Simon and Garfunkel, with its gentle but confident melodies, whilst tracks like ‘Leaf Off/ The Cave’ pair the calm music with grandiose lyrics. The change in theme seems natural considering he was in his mid-twenties when he covered ‘Heartbeats’, and is now 36. The lyrics about life, meaning, and loss are nestled mischievously within serene melodies with catchy rhythms, like in ‘Afterglow’.

However, the album does not get bogged down in some of the more serious, slightly morbid lyrics, as tracks such as ‘Let It Carry You’ are far more positive assessments, with Gonzáles stating their purpose as being “To remind of all restless souls of the beauty of being here”. Fans of Veneer and In Our Nature will not be disappointed, for the recognisable gentle rhythms and soothing melodies still remain, and the lyrics only serve to bring greater meaning to his more familiar elements.